B2B Ecommerce + 3PL | Part 1
The world of manufacturing is full of complex relationships. When it comes to warehousing and fulfillment, 3rd party logistics providers (3PLs) fill a need which many manufacturers face: they take care of the pick/pack/ship portion of order fulfillment. For manufacturers looking to launch B2B ecommerce, two natural questions come up:
- Will ecommerce work for our existing order fulfillment arrangement?
- Can our 3PL perform the tasks they need to with seamless data flow between ecommerce and SAP?
With Corevist Commerce, the answer to both is a resounding “Yes!” By way of example, here’s what one of our clients is doing to make ecommerce, SAP, and their 3PL work as a harmonious whole.
After Part 1, you’ll want to read Part 2, where we’ll extend this topic even further.
Our client, a manufacturer in the medical/pharmaceutical field, needed ecommerce for their customers. They were using a 3PL for warehousing and fulfillment. That meant multiple parties inputting and modifying order data, with SAP the ultimate destination for that data.
Here are the dataflows in question:
- Customers: Orders placed in Corevist Commerce posted to SAP.
- Customers: Order status viewed in Corevist Commerce (data pulled from SAP in real time).
- 3PL employees: Manual communication to the manufacturer’s Customer Service department indicating fulfillment of an order.
See the problem?
While Corevist Commerce offers real-time inventory data straight from SAP, the manual process for posting order fulfillment data creates a lag. Between the 3PL employee fulfilling an order, emailing or calling Customer Service with that information, and Customer Service entering it in SAP, there’s plenty of time for another order to be placed through any channel—an order claiming inventory that’s actually gone.
When you don’t have visibility through good data, it’s a serious supply chain problem. You want good data; you want it to be easy to update that data; you want the right data modification permissions for the right users, and you need some way for them to perform that data modification in SAP.
Obviously, Corevist Commerce covers those requirements for the manufacturer’s customers. Those customers have the ability to log in, browse, add to cart, place orders, and manage their account in our customer dashboard.
The problem was the 3PL workers. It didn’t make sense to give them SAP GUI licenses in the warehouse. The workers would have needed lots of training to perform their task in SAP.
The solution? Giving the 3PL workers access to Corevist eTrack, the portion of our suite that covers order fulfillment and status.
What We Did
We extended access to the manufacturer’s eTrack application to their 3PL workers. With a simple online login, the 3PL workers get the real-time interface to SAP which they need to fulfill orders and communicate that information to the manufacturer immediately. Rather than needing SAP GUI and extensive training, the 3PL employees get a straightforward web portal that gives them only the read/write access to SAP which they need.
Extending Corevist eTrack to 3PL employees has had far-reaching consequences in the manufacturer’s supply chain. Across the board, everything is running more smoothly. Most importantly, SAP data gets updated in real time.
Here’s what that looks like:
- Communication between the 3PL and the manufacturer’s SAP system is now automated in real time.
- With access to real-time SAP data through Corevist, the 3PL workers know what to ship (and to whom).
- With order fulfillment updating SAP in real time, the manufacturer’s One True Truth (SAP) provides live, accurate inventory data through all sales channels (Corevist Commerce, CSRs querying SAP, etc.).
- When the customer logs in to Corevist, they see the order updates on their account—updates which were performed by a 3PL employee.
Want more on 3PLs + e-commerce?
Read Part 2 in our series here. We’ll talk about manufacturers getting closer to the consumer, Ryder entering the B2B e-commerce market, and more.
Moving forward: FREE case study
Wondering how SAP ecommerce looks at a complex organization? Download this FREE case study on Blount International. You’ll learn how this manufacturer of agriculture and forestry equipment launched Corevist Commerce for multiple brands and met the needs of their dealers and distributors.